Connexins during 500 Million Years-From Cyclostomes to Mammals.


Mikalsen SO(1), Í Kongsstovu S(1), Tausen M(1).
Author information:
(1)Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Faroe Islands, FO-100 Tórshavn, Faroe Islands.


It was previously shown that the connexin gene family had relatively similar subfamily structures in several vertebrate groups. Still, many details were left unclear. There are essentially no data between tunicates, which have connexins that cannot be divided into the classic subfamilies, and teleosts, where the subfamilies are easily recognized. There are also relatively few data for the groups that diverged between the teleosts and mammals. As many of the previously analyzed genomes have been improved, and many more genomes are available, we reanalyzed the connexin gene family and included species from all major vertebrate groups. The major results can be summarized as follows: (i) The same connexin subfamily structures are found in all Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates), with some variations due to genome duplications, gene duplications and gene losses. (ii) In contrast to previous findings, birds do not have a lower number of connexins than other tetrapods. (iii) The cyclostomes (lampreys and hagfishes) possess genes in the alpha, beta, gamma and delta subfamilies, but only some of the genes show a phylogenetic affinity to specific genes in jawed vertebrates. Thus, two major evolutionary transformations have occurred in this gene family, from tunicates to cyclostomes and from cyclostomes to jawed vertebrates.